Monday, July 27, 2009

Xing Yi Five Element Forms

My Xingyi instructor, Jake Burroughs will probably claw his own eyes out after he sees this, but here it is.
While I've been practicing Tai Chi Chuan since 1996 and Bagua off-and-on since then, Xingyi is pretty new to me. In Tae Kwon Do, we had about 16 forms. Threw them all out. Same for Kenpo, all gone. Don't need them, and my instructors couldn't explain some of the arcane postures and movements within the forms.
What I am realizing about the Chinese Internal Arts is that unlike hard styles, Internal forms are more about shapes. Shapes that either exhibit or neutralize power, sometimes both.
Taiji and Bagua movement is intensely complex. At some point, I realized that I needed to start learning Xingyi to complete the trinity of the Chinese Internal arts.
Xingyi looks simple, but it's not as easy as it looks. There are tons of internal alignments to be aware of, and if done correctly can produce tremendous power.
In the short time I have been studing this art, it has helped me understand my Taiji and Bagua much better. Also, I've found myself successfully using the Xingyi hand methods in sparring with my training partners. Jake has said you could just study these five forms for life and develop into a very capeable fighter.
Another thing I find interesting is the relation to Chinese philosophy these forms contain: Pi/splitting fist (metal), Beng/smashing fist (wood), Zuan/drilling fist (water), Heng/crossing fist (earth), and Pao/pounding fist (fire). They naturally relate to the cycle of creation/destruction, and corresponding organs and meridians.
I have a long way to go in this study, but I feel I am beginning to internalize the yin and yang interchange of Taiji, the spiral energy of Bagua, and now the linear power of Xingyi.


BSM said...

Hey most people aren't brave enough to tape themselves and put up for the world to see!

While humbling, it's one of the best ways to learn where you are getting things right and wrong!

You even have the cool kung fu PJs. I go out in my backyard wearing karate pants and t-shirt!

I'll have to watch the entire form later when I get time.

BSM said...

OK now I'm curious. I watched the video and can recognize some martial applications. You write this about TKD and Kenpo:

"...and my instructors couldn't explain some of the arcane postures and movements within the forms."

I ran into that within tae kwon do, too. So far, every time I ask, in Mantis most every thing we do in a form has some sort of application. Even movements that look stylistic seem to have a use.

So is Xingyi the same? What about Tai Chi Chuan and Bagua? Are they all more stuff than fluff? In my neck of the woods those three are not taught so I have no idea.

Daniel Pfister said...


Just a friendly suggestion. Your Xingyi looks heavily influenced by Taiji. While the two arts share many similarities the overall flavor of Xingyi is explosive power. Without that, you're just practicing Taiji in a straight line, but the differences are more subtle than that. Here's what I would consider a good example of that explosive flavor:

If you were not already a long-time practitioner of Taiji it would be fine, but since you presumably already have a taiji flow, Xingyi should be an expression of all the potential energy you've built up over your years of Taiji practice.

All The best,

Dojo Rat said...

Yes. I have more experiance with Taiji, so I have the apps down for that. Bagua is way complex, but thanks to seminars with Tim Cartmell and Mike Martello I am figuring out the applications. Xingyi appears basic but is deceptively complex. It is definately all about proper structure and delivery of power. But the concept of shapes is what I am giving thought to. How does this shape fit the opponent's shape? Am I in the strongest structural posture possible?
Remember the reinforced block in TKD?, one fist next to the other elbow in an outward block? My instructors could never explain that. Now, I see it is in the splitting fist and drilling fist of Xingyi, with proper application. Karate was teaching it wrong. It's not a reinforced block, it's part of rise-drill-overturn-fall in a natural neutralization and counter-strike. Hope that helps.
Hey; get some more material up on your Blog, I'd like to hear about your experiances.
You are correct. My instructor is having us practice the Xingyi in a softer pace until we get the movements and structure perfect. I can turn on the power, but my techniques tend to blur together a bit at the level I am at.
-Also, I want to retain the internal feeling, I don't just want it to revert to a hard style form, but I agree with you, and the power is coming!

JAB said...

Looks good brother. We have work to do, but whom doesn't;)
Keep in mind that Pao should come before Heng technically.

Li Gui Changs expression of Xing Yi is quite different than the norm out there. He was a slight man, and had a HEAVY influence via Yang Taiji, so his XY is a bit "softer" (whatever that means) than what we typically see. I personally gravitate to this approach more than the "harder" (whatever that means) styles of XY.

All styles are valid and have solid techniques. The problem often lies with the teacher, not the art. Many karate teachers have no clue about locking or throwing so they do not understand the techniques that look like blocks, are really not blocks. Blocks are a fallacy! You can cover, or slip, or shield, but you cannot effectively block anything. The art is not to be blamed, the lack of technical knowledge of the teacher is at fault here.

BSM with whom do you train Mantis?


Sensei Strange said...

Video looks good.

I myself though think forms are a terrible way to train for martial skill.

That being said I do enjoy watching your explorations and thought processes of decoding the forms. I also enjoy seeing the range of stuff you are working on.

Dojo Rat said...


I would tend to agree that you can't learn to fight from forms, and learning more forms won't make you necessarily a better fighter.
--But for trying to unlock the intentions of the old masters, nothing comes closer.
Then there is the ART that is in the forms, the expression of self. Every movement is an internal alignment study, especially in the Chinese Internal Arts.
- As I have said before;
Combat brings necessary pain, Art necessarily brings pleasure.
And lastly, forms are something you can practice alone, and long into old age.

JAB said...

Forms are a part of training. Unfortunately too much emphasis has been placed on form work within the CMA community, which has caused the combatives to suffer.

Even boxers do form work! Fencers. Wrestlers.... etc.


Sensei Strange said...

Like JAB said emphasis is the key. I have a simple form a do. 1 form, done for a few minutes at the beginning of class. Not 20 forms that take all class.

Just a difference of philosophy and one that I probably will regularly bring up over time.

Oh yeah, I went to the dojo and little turds were everywhere. Sure sign that MY dojo rat is back. At least clean up after yourselves you dirty rats!!!

(funny my yearly rat problem is what led me to this blog in the first place)

Dojo Rat said...

You are haunted by Dojo Rats!

wagli01 said...

Wow. Strange article. Graf's ATA Martial Arts